While playing in the Lorain County All-Star football game isn’t considered a rare occurrence, having it be the 16th game of your senior season could certainly be labeled a special experience.
Such is the case tonight for three members of the East team — Avon’s Greg Harrison, Jacob Mullins and Tyler Lance — who played 15 games en route to their Division II state runner-up finish last fall.
“This season in itself has been a long grind — I’m still recovering to this day,” Lance said. “The game puts some wear and tear on our bodies, and I played through the playoffs with injuries and a lot of other guys on our team were banged up, too.
“But just to say I played in 16 games during my senior season is an honor.”
The East squad will be led by Elyria’s Kevin Fell and his Pioneers coaching staff, and will consist of players from Avon, Avon Lake, Columbia, Elyria, Elyria Catholic, Midview and North Ridgeville.
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The Eagles put up some big wins against some of their West Shore Conference rivals — the Panthers, Middies and Rangers — over the past four years, but there didn’t seem to be much animosity once the team assembled this week for practice.
“They have been nothing but complimentary toward us,” said Mullins, one of 15 All-Ohio players on the East roster. “There have been no hard feelings. They didn’t take any of it personal … it’s just football.”
With the players meshing well and building good chemistry throughout the week, the East squad could be a heavy favorite heading into tonight’s game at Elyria Catholic.
The East has more than double the All-Ohio players the West does, and the East is filled with teams that have had recent playoff experience. The East also seems to be filled with big-school programs, while the East is filled with mostly Division III and IV teams.
“That’s another reason this all-star game is so unique … there’s no scouting report,” Lance said. “There are good football players everywhere you go, so it’ll be interesting to see how they click. But in practice, we look sharp. I think it’s going to be a big task to take us down.”
“I don’t know much about the West team,” Mullins said. “But I do know the East has a bunch of great players and we won’t be easy to beat.”
The Eagles aren’t saying anything that players from either side wouldn’t be expected to say, but it seems more heartfelt coming from athletes who have spent the last four years believing they played for the better team and that they were going to win every time they stepped on the football field.
“We’re grateful for all of it,” Harrison said. “We’ve had great coaches and we’ve had a great community, and they’ve all contributed to our success. We’ve been able to reflect on what we’ve done during our careers and we’re happy with everything we’ve been able to do.”
Harrison, the Eagles’ defensive end and team captain, will play football for the University of Dayton next season, Lance, who is playing linebacker in tonight’s game, will be a tight end for John Carroll and Mullins will attend Ohio University, but decided not to play college football.
Harrison will be joined on the Flyers roster by Avon Lake defensive back Brett Bass.
“Me and Brett have been friends for awhile,” Harrison said. “So when I found out he was going to Dayton, I was pretty excited.”
Lance will be joined at JCU by Elyria Catholic linebacker Joe Dempsey.
“I’ve gotten to talk to him a little bit, and I told him I was happy he was going there,” Lance said. “It’s another Lorain County guy, which isn’t common for that program.”
But the three Avon players will enjoy their final high school football game the most because they get to play once more as teammates. The game will provide the final memory of three very memorable careers.
“It’s something I think about every day,” Lance said of his time at Avon. “It was the best four years of my life — being part of such an amazing program. To be part of the ride that we were on, it’s the highlight of my life.”
Avon — Greg Harrison, DE; Jacob Mullins, WR; Tyler Lance, LB. Avon Lake — Brett Bass, DB; Jake Young, DL; Dontez Smith, RB; Ryan Pivervich, C; Nick Skuggen, LB; Mike Russell, FS. Columbia — Shane Lambert, WR; Connor Jenny, CB; Brandon Heidinger, RB; Zach Bican, RB. Elyria — Dustin Stolarski, QB; Holden Vasur, DT; Jared Williams, DL; Demetrius Walton, WR. Elyria Catholic — Cole Gonte, DL; Luke Williams, OL; Joe Dempsey, LB; Jake Laulea, LB; James Baker, WR; Matt Morgan, LB; Alex Nielsen, OL. Midview — David Gilchrist, OL; Patrick Linn, TE; Ryan Mains, WR; Jacob Bennett, RB; Brendan Large, DL; Tate Smith, LB; Brandon Blascak, DB. North Ridgeville — P.J. Bunevich, DB; Matt Dawson, DE; Mitch Bugala, OT; Christian Watkins, CB; David Riley, LB.
- WHAT: The 31st annual Lorain County All-Star football game
- TIME: 7 o’clock
- WHERE: Knights of Columbus Field, Elyria Catholic High School
- TICKETS: $5 at the gate
- PARKING: Free at the school
- Clearview longtime coach John Szalay and Ted Gordon, who coached at Midview and Keystone, will be inducted into the Lorain County Football Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame during a halftime ceremony.
- Due to the NFL’s recently signed exclusive deal with Nike, the Browns have donated pants and jerseys they can no longer use for tonight’s game. The seniors will be allowed to keep their brown or white jerseys after the game.
- The only two Lorain County schools not participating in tonight’s game are Wellington and Oberlin — the Phoenix’s graduation commencement will be held at the same time and the Dukes did not submit any players for the event.